St. Lucia Adventures
by Candyce H. Stapen
Just before I jump off a platform 100-feet in the air, Kurt, a guide, warns me “If you don’t make it to the other side, it’s your fault.” I close my eyes, lift my feet from the wooden perch and launch myself through St. Lucia’s rainforest, zip line style. As soon as I hear the clackety clack of the pulleys and feel the harness supporting my weight, I loosen my grip on the cable to create maximum speed and open my eyes.
Beneath me the fronds of palm trees six stories tall wave in the breeze and leaves of ficus, magnolia and red cedar trees blur into a continuous green strip as I glide by them doing nearly 15 mph. Look at me: I’m flying through the jungle canopy. Kurt smiles when I reach the platform at the end of the 700-foot long cable without having to haul myself hand over hand because I choked, clenching the steel wire tight-- the only way to brake--too soon.
I’m loving my “no fear, no fun” Treetop Canopy Adventure. The adrenaline thrill ride, one of St. Lucia’s newer attractions, consists of a series of 11 zip lines. The longest stretches nearly 1000 feet and the highest hoists me 150-feet up into the island’s lush rainforest. Careening above streams and fern filled clearings, zooming through giant stands of bamboo, I whoop like Tarzan.
But that’s not St. Lucia’s only shout out. The mountainous Caribbean destination located south of Martinique and north of St.Vincent has been hosting a weekly “Jump up” – or block party—for more than 30 years. This Friday, after a tasty dinner of dorado with Creole sauce at Castries’ Coal Pot, another island staple, I take a taxi to Gros Islet, a workaday town on St. Lucia’s north coast.
The aroma of barbequed chicken, pork ribs and lobster grilled by locals manning makeshift stalls pulls me up Marie Therese Street. A deejay on the stage at the intersection with Dauphin Street pulses a mix of contemporary reggae, techno and hip hop to the thickening crowd, most of whom sway to the music while holding paper cups filled with beer. Rodney from Castries asks me to dance. A man with a Rasta hat and a bushy beard balances a Heineken bottle on his forehead as he shimmies past us. A foursome of sisters from Toronto dance together and a mother and her ten-year-old son, all smiles, join the circle of islanders and visitors moving to the rhythms.
Part local culture, part tourist trap, the gathering heats up near 11:00 p.m. when a live band revs the growing crowd. Despite a few enterprising hustlers offering to sell me ganja (marijuana), and a sprinkling of zonked out twentysomethings weaving and heaving, the party, which can push past 2:00 am, maintains a friendly buzz.
Weary, but glad I sampled some local highlights, I return to Windjammer Landing Resort , my island base about 15-minutes from Gros Islet. The resort is a sweep of Mediterranean style villas, most with kitchens, arcing up a hillside laced with red and purple bougainvillea above the turquoise sea. The property features five restaurants and a complimentary kids’ program for ages 4 through 12.
Helen, the personal ambassador assigned to me at check-in, greets me in the morning, to see if I want anything. I ask her to book a massage for me. I am tired from hiking treetop platforms and dancing under the stars. As Pamela kneads my legs, I smile, remembering my St. Lucia adventures.
Check the Windjammer Landing Web site for vacation deals and savings.